February 9, 2023
SINGAPORE – Since Monday’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake that devastated Turkey, Mr Ahmet Akpinar has been unable to sleep. He fears that many of his relatives living in Kahramanmaras, a city that was badly affected, have been killed.
The executive chef, who has been living in Singapore since 2002 with his wife and three children, first heard from his brother on Monday morning that their house was destroyed.
While their sister had been rescued from the rubble, Mr Akpinar has not heard from the aunts and uncles he grew up with. His brother told him that other family members are likely among the more than 11,000 dead.
The 43-year-old, who works at The Mediterranean Deli Turk in Far East Plaza, said: “It is very hard to accept that almost all of my relatives have passed away. I am still waiting… I can’t contact them because there is no Internet connection and no electricity. But from the news, I see that almost all of the city has been destroyed.
“We have to be strong. I still cannot believe the earthquake happened.”
Singaporean Syafiq Mardi, whose wife is Turkish, told The Straits Times that he saw her crying at home on Monday morning after she spoke over the phone with her sister living in Diyarbakir, in south-eastern Turkey.
Her sister and her three children had to seek refuge in a mosque after their apartment in the city centre was destroyed.
Mr Syafiq, a management support officer, said: “My sister-in-law had this moment when she didn’t know who to save. Her husband told her to leave the house first and that he would save their children.”
On Wednesday, the 29-year-old launched a campaign to raise $50,000 for food and warm clothing for survivors. Temperatures in some parts of Turkey, such as Kahramanmaras, are as low as -7 deg C.
Singaporean Tansel Kaya, whose father is Turkish, said friends in the cities of Gaziantep and Adana told him that natural gas pipelines have been damaged. Food and water are also in short supply.
The 26-year-old, who works as a ship operator here, said: “This means (the operations) of many factories and bakeries are disrupted. Water pipes are also freezing due to the weather.”
Singaporean Shazly Ariff, who lives in the city of Kayseri in central Turkey, said the sound of subsequent tremors was like a lorry rumbling right in front of him. “The light bulbs were shaking violently. I called all my family members to gather and we said prayers and hugged each other until it was over.”
His Turkish wife just gave birth to a baby girl three weeks ago. None of them was injured.
Organisations in Singapore have stepped up to help.
A 20-man team from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) headed to Turkey on Wednesday to assist with rescue efforts.
The team is led by Lieutenant-Colonel Lok Wee Keong, commander of SCDF’s elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart). It includes 14 Dart officers, four paramedic specialists and a full-time national serviceman doctor.
The Singapore Red Cross launched a public fund-raising appeal on Wednesday that will run until May 31.
The public can donate online at redcross.sg/donate-turkey-syria
This is on top of the US$100,000 (S$132,500) that the organisation has pledged.
The Turkish Embassy here has asked for items such as diapers, non-perishable food items and tents. Those who wish to donate can drop such items at the embassy’s office at SGX Centre 1, 2 Shenton Way, 10-03, or send them by mail.
Caritas Humanitarian Aid and Relief Initiatives (Singapore) will launch an online fund-raising appeal within the Catholic community this week.
The funds raised will be sent to Caritas national organisations on the ground to help quake victims.
Mr Satwant Singh, chairman of Mercy Relief, said his organisation will partner Hayrat Humanitarian Aid Association in Turkey and send a small team there.
He said: ”As soon as the earthquake happened, calls flooded in from people wanting to donate items to help the victims.”